Honduras votes this Sunday with a strong polarization that augurs the return of ‘Zelayism’ | International


Hondurans go to the polls this Sunday in a presidential election in which they will decide the replacement of Juan Orlando Hernández in the country’s presidency, marked by the specter of post-electoral violence experienced after the 2017 elections and which are expected as a materialization of the polarization in the country, divided between the return of ‘Zelayismo’, which is emerging as the most likely option in the polls, or the perpetuity of the ruling party.

In addition to a president, the preferences of Hondurans will also be deposited at the polls for 128 congressional deputies, 20 deputies to the Central American Parliament and 298 mayors, as well as 2,092 council members. In the framework of the presidential election, of the 15 candidates who are competing, only four have the chance to seize power, of which two are the clear favorites: Nasry Asfura and Xiomara Castro, two acquaintances of Honduran politics who play the most than the Presidency.

“What these elections are going to leave, whoever wins, is a society deeply divided between ‘zelayismo’ and ‘antizelayismo’,” said Rogelio Núñez, principal investigator at the Elcano Royal Institute, who points out that “if the polls are not wrong Castro will win and will start his term with a ‘Zelayista’ drift. “

Castro was the first lady of Honduras between 2006 and 2009, under the presidency of her husband Manuel Zelaya, whom a coup d’etat removed to power, but whose influence has endured over the years, which could mean a return of its politicians more ten years later. At the head of a left-wing coalition, he leads the polls with 38%. However, even if he manages to prevail at the polls, Castro “will probably need to agree and negotiate governance, something that will cause tremendous tensions” in an extremely polarized environment, Núñez details.

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‘Papi a la Orden’, as Asfura is popularly known in Honduras, is the candidate of the ruling National Party that seeks to change the Mayor of Tegucigalpa for the Honduran presidency. Businessman who led the polls until a few months ago, he has been ousted by the coalition of opposition forces that, however, have not completely removed him from the possibility of proclaiming himself the winner.

Although he has raised the banner of anti-corruption during his campaign, he has also been peppered with some investigations into embezzlement and abuse of power, among others. Also among the candidates is Yani Rosenthal, of the Liberal Party, who served three years in a United States jail for embezzlement.

Campaign for the National Party. / Getty

Honduras has a single round system

Unlike the trend towards a two-round system in the Latin American region, Honduras has a single-round system in which “if a candidate gets one more vote, he is already president,” recalls Núñez, which generates that the president “may arrive with a very limited legitimacy”, to which is added that he will find an “extremely divided Legislative”.

The situation is undoubtedly “tense”, to which it must be added that the current president could be looking for ways to protect himself from a possible judicial process in the United States due to the drug trafficking accusations that weigh on him, a controversy that adds which he is already dragging after his questioned victory at the polls in 2017, which assured him a second term while unleashing a wave of violence and repression in the country that threatens to repeat itself.

All this context, on the other hand, will take place with a recently launched electoral reform, agreed after the riots of 2017, which will be put to the test on Sunday and which presents a risk in that both the National Electoral Council and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal are composed in equal parts by members of the three main parties, so it will be difficult for them to reach an agreement in the event that the results are contested, after a similar complaint sparked protests in the last elections. “Too narrow results are going to bring the specter of fraud”, warns Núñez.

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Challenges and obstacles

Beyond the polarized panorama that Honduran society presents, the next president has an extensive list of challenges that he will have to face during his term in an increasingly complicated scenario.

On the one hand, “there has been a certain tendency within the Hernández government not to deepen the persecution of political corruption, even with the shadow of drug trafficking that has come to spill over into his family environment”, proof that “drug trafficking has penetrated into politics and economics. ” Meanwhile, the current president has also fostered the “personalist and continuist” trend that has been observed in recent years, Núñez reports.

And although “Honduras is not a narco-state, there are areas in which the Administration and power are co-opted by drug trafficking”, while the capacity of the State to combat it is “very small.” Added to this is insecurity, inequality and discrimination.

Although Honduras is a country “that has not decreased as profoundly as the rest of the countries in the region, it still does not grow, which affects one of the main problems: migration,” recalls the researcher. The caravans are another of the ghosts hovering over the elections, fearing that a new wave of post-electoral violence could boost the number of people who decide to leave Honduras for a better future.

Violence and Human Rights

The UN Human Rights office has registered since September 2020 – the date of the primary elections – at least 63 cases of political violence. In addition to the 29 deaths, it also has in its records 14 attacks, twelve assaults, seven cases of threats and one kidnapping.

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Honduras has already registered a violation of Human Rights in electoral processes before, “for which there is a special concern” about the violation of civil and political rights, especially after in 2017 “more than 20 deaths were documented, hundreds of wounded and arrests, “recalls Graciela Martínez, Amnesty International researcher in Honduras.

Martínez points to the “militarization process” that the Central American country has suffered in recent years, which has resulted in the excessive use of force that adds to the “serious regression of Human Rights that has been observed in the last decade “, with one” of the most obvious demonstrations “being the thousands of people who flee the country every year.

In general, in Honduras there is a “hostile environment for the defense of Human Rights and the environment, it is even among the first three countries in the world in deaths of defenders,” Martínez continues, adding that impunity continues to be a constant in the face of Human Rights violations.

For this reason, AI reminds the next president that “regardless of whether the government changes or not,” that “responsibilities cannot be omitted, they have to be resolved,” while “charges should be withdrawn from those who are being unfoundedly accused “as many of the protesters who participated in the protests face trials, and even criminal prosecutions, for crimes they allegedly committed in the framework of the demonstrations.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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